Editor’s Note: The following essay from Sonal Sachdev Patel, CEO of God My Silent Partner Foundation, discusses the poor quality of life that many professionals in the nonprofit sector live with, and ways to improve that quality of life.
We live in a society that too often equates money with power – and there are very few people with more money than MacKenzie Scott.
That’s why I was delighted to read her latest Medium post in which she makes the case for philanthropists getting more done by ceding power and getting out of the way.
That is, providing long-term, unrestricted funding to high-impact nonprofit organizations so they can get on with the important work of making positive change.
But it was what Ms. Scott said about sleep that I hope more people will really wake up to.
In her words, she thought the unrestricted funding would help non-profit teams to:
“Buy needed supplies. Find new creative ways to help. Hire a few extra team members they know they can pay for the next five years. Buy chairs for them. Stop having to work every weekend. Get some sleep.”
When we talk about an underfunded, overstretched social sector, what we are actually talking about is a group of underfunded, overstretched people. People who have chosen to devote themselves to their communities, often working overtime (unpaid) because they don’t want to turn anyone away. People who have spent the last year and a half serving those communities amid a global pandemic that has exacerbated many existing inequalities and rolled back hard-won progress. People who are physically and mentally exhausted.
When Ms. Scott advocates for a kind of philanthropy that will finally let teams take the weekend off, or get some sleep, it shouldn’t sound so radical – but it is. The leaders and teams at local organizations need rest. They need time for recovery and healing, and they need funders to facilitate that.
Inspired by many feminist activists advocating for rest as a form of resistance, this kind of giving is more than a mark of trust; it’s an acknowledgement of how progress takes root in communities, and who is responsible for that progress. It is, at its core, a demonstration of solidarity.
At GMSP Foundation, we call it ‘spiritual solidarity’. Because our philanthropic practice is underpinned by our family’s values and beliefs, and what we believe in most deeply is a sense of shared humanity with every single being on Earth.
That belief tells us that there is a light that exists within and unites us all. It celebrates individuality, but insists we look deeper – past skin colour, gender, sexual orientation or other circumstances of fate – to find connection and commonality.
And when we put that belief into practice through trust-based philanthropy and spiritual solidarity, we are expressing a deep commitment to the humanity of our partners and the people they support.
That’s why we provide unrestricted funding, and why we also provide a specific pot of extra funding to invest in the wellbeing and resilience of teams and leaders.
They give their whole selves to the people they serve, so we want to support them as whole beings, too.
Because we know that real, transformative power in this world lies with the people who make it their job to serve their communities every single day.
And it’s our job at GMSP Foundation, and the job of funders like MacKenzie Scott, to make sure those people are served too; that they are properly supported so they can wake up rested every day, ready to change the world.
Sonal Sachdev Patel is the CEO of God My Silent Partner Foundation (GMSP) Foundation, a family foundation established by her parents, Ramesh and Pratibha Sachdev, which supports strong frontline organizations working to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in India and the UK.
After graduating from Cambridge with an MA in Economics and Management Studies, she started her career as a strategy consultant at Bain & Company, working in London and Delhi before moving back to the UK to join GMSP. She serves on the UK board of Dasra. She co-authored Gita: The Battle of the Worlds, published by Harper Collins, which brings the universal messages of the ancient Hindu text the Bhagwad Gita to children of all faiths and none. She was awarded the 2019 Influencer Award by DSC Awards for her work in social change.